The time has come for Enbridge to do something bold if they hope to save the Northern Gateway pipeline, which on it’s current trajectory is headed for an inglorious defeat.

And by bold, I don’t mean full page newspaper ads extolling ‘The Facts on Pipelines’, – only engineers find the facts on pipelines interesting.

 This issue is now far larger than a pipeline.

The debate all across Canada is now about our national natural resources, how we develop them, how we move them to markets both domestic and foreign, how they affect the environment, how they shape our national economy, and chart our future.

That’s big.

YES....or NO?

But ironically, it is now the Northern Gateway pipeline itself that is getting in the way of us having that larger debate.

I have been thinking about my years as a Chief of Staff, when final recommendations had to be made to a Mayor, or Minister or Premier, and I thought to myself, ‘If I were Chief of Staff to the President of Enbridge, what would I say?”.

And I would say this:  “Sir, I think we should ask the National Energy Board to suspend all activity associated with our application for the Northern Gateway pipeline for one year – 365 days – effective immediately”.

Call it a time out, or a cooling off period, or whatever you want, but I would do so for the following five reasons:

First, I am not familiar with the inner workings of Enbridge, although I do have a number of friends who work there, but I think they themselves need some time – without incoming fire – to step back for a breather.

Are the people, and the resources and the priorities properly aligned within the company to deliver on this project?  They have got themselves into a spot where you have to wonder whether some kind of internal re-set button has to be hit to better marshal their forces.

After all, there is a reason governments have cabinet shuffles – to better align their people with their priorities.

Full page ads won’t do that.

Second, a one year suspension of the pipeline application process would allow Enbridge to get back out there and re-engage with people in B.C.

I know, I know, there are some who will never support the project, but in my travels in British Columbia two out of the last four weekends from Invermere to Tsawwassen, I find that most people just don’t know enough about it, but are willing to be convinced.

Enbridge needs to get back in front of aboriginal groups, environmental organizations, communities large and small along the route, and listen, and then better explain the project, in an an environment without the white hot fire of the emotional public hearing process playing itself out.

Third, it’s the silly season in B.C. with the May 2013 election campaign effectively under way.

Suspending the application process at the NEB largely takes Enbridge itself out of the campaign, and puts the debate in the hands of the ruling Liberals, the opposition NDP, and the people of B.C. themselves.

Enbridge would be effectively saying to the people of B.C., ‘Folks, you’ve got a decision to make.  Let us know how it goes’.

Fourth, it would allow the governments of British Columbia, Alberta, and Canada, to have a rational discussion about both the national and interprovincial issues associated with these kinds of projects without the bullets flying, the hearings underway, and deadlines looming.

Believe me, I have been to sixteen Annual Premier’s Conferences, and the hope that anything was going to get solved in Halifax last month, was zero.

A time out allows the politicians time to breathe, to think, to talk, to plan.

And fifth and finally, a suspension of the application is a signal to the 30,000 people lined to be intervenors at the public hearings that they should just go home for now – cool off, we’ll call you later.

In requesting the National Energy Board to suspend their application for a year, Enbridge would neither be capitulating to their opponents, nor continuing on their current dead-end path.

Developers do it all the time at City Council:  when you can see that you don’t have the votes at Planning Commission, suspend the application for that re-zoning and get back into the community.

A final thought:  in the mid 1990s, the issues of gaming raged in Alberta, with arguments over private casinos, public casinos, native casinos, VLTs, municipal referenda, the churches were weighing in, and on and on.

The government put a one year moratorium on all gaming applications while they went back for more consultations, sorted out the rules, then re-opened for business.

Anybody hear anything about gaming lately?


2 Responses to A BOLD WAY OUT?

  1. Doug Grandt says:

    Bold, courageous and moral leadership … http://bit.ly/LoveRod4PM

  2. William Nichols says:

    A great idea. If they do take out full page ads, they should read, “You are either for pipelines or you are for dwelling in caves” Without pipelines, we have no modern life and must return to caves.

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